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Geographic Patterns of Interspecific Hybridization between Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) and Diffuse Knapweed (C. diffusa)

  • Amy C. Blair (a1) and Ruth A. Hufbauer (a1)


Hybridization between species has the potential to change invasion dynamics. Field observations suggest that spotted knapweed and diffuse knapweed, two ecologically and economically destructive invasive plants, hybridize in their introduced range. As a first step towards understanding whether hybridization has affected the dynamics of the invasion of these species, we conducted field surveys in the introduced (North American) and native (European) ranges to discern patterns of hybridization and measured fitness-related traits among field hybrids and parental species. In North America we detected plants with hybrid morphology in 97% of the diffuse knapweed sites (n = 40); such hybrid plants were taller and more often exhibited polycarpy than plants with typical diffuse knapweed morphology. Hybrids were not detected in North American spotted knapweed sites (n = 22). In most regions surveyed in Europe, diffuse knapweed and spotted knapweed were isolated from each other and existed as distinct, nonhybridizing species. However, in Ukraine, the two species frequently coexisted within a site, resulting in hybrid swarms. On average, the plants from the North American diffuse knapweed sites (including plants with both diffuse and hybrid morphology), were larger than the apparently pure diffuse knapweed in the native range. The cross-continental patterns of hybridization likely are explained by differences in cytology. It recently has been confirmed that the spotted knapweed in North America is tetraploid whereas the diffuse knapweed is diploid. Genetic incompatibilities associated with these two cytotypes likely prevent ongoing hybridization. We hypothesize that hybrid individuals were introduced to North America along with diffuse knapweed. Because plants with hybrid morphology are found in nearly all North American diffuse knapweed sites, the introduction of hybrids likely occurred early in the invasion of diffuse knapweed. Thus, although the presence of hybrids might facilitate the ongoing invasion of diffuse knapweed into North America, elevated concern regarding their presence might not be warranted. Because such individuals are not likely to represent a new hybridization event, currently effective management strategies used in diffuse knapweed sites should not need alteration.


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Geographic Patterns of Interspecific Hybridization between Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) and Diffuse Knapweed (C. diffusa)

  • Amy C. Blair (a1) and Ruth A. Hufbauer (a1)


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